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Building a Center of Expertise

As a Center of Expertise (CoE), GPOBA serves donors, development partners, and stakeholders by sharing best practices and lessons learned on OBA/RBF approaches. In FY16, GPOBA continued its work as a CoE – deepening its technical expertise and expanding the reach of its knowledge, convening, and dissemination activities. Central to GPOBA’s CoE role supporting the expansion of the OBA/RBF community and the increased use of OBA/RBF is the development of partnerships both within and external to the World Bank. Some highlights of this year’s collaborative activities are detailed below.

Working with Donors, Other Development Partners, and Governments

Publications, learning programs, technical assistance, advisory initiatives, and convening activities are all part of GPOBA’s work. This fiscal year, GPOBA led a four-day Learning and Knowledge Exchange trip to Bangladesh with DFID and Sida (see Box 4), and facilitated South-South Knowledge Exchanges both virtually and in Uganda, with client countries and project teams sharing lessons learned from the implementation of renewable and grid energy projects (see Box 5). GPOBA also participated in Sida’s Results-Based Financing Approaches (RBFA) workshop, developed and delivered the OBA/RBF Knowledge and Project Clinic with the African Development Bank, and was a strong participant in both World Water Week, with a session featuring client participation from Ghana as well as the Gates Foundation, and the World Bank’s Water Week.

Working with the World Bank Group

The fiscal year brought collaboration and partnership opportunities for GPOBA under the umbrella of the World Bank’s Global Practice for Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience (GSURR) in the Partnerships and Resource Mobilization unit. This specialized unit includes GPOBA, the Tokyo Development Learning Center, and other key partners involved in the work of creating sustainable communities. GPOBA also continued to strengthen its existing relationships with key Global Practices within the World Bank, focusing on such thematic issues as increased leveraging of private investment in access to services for the poor, public-private partnerships (PPPs), and gender mainstreaming.

  • International Finance Corporation (IFC). GPOBA and IFC have already worked together within a number of PPPs. In FY16, GPOBA partnered more closely with IFC in its Advisory and PPP groups. GPOBA and IFC are developing a joint training and project models focused on deepening the understanding of how OBA/RBF can increase the impact and reach of PPPs for core infrastructure and basic services in poor and marginalized communities. This collaboration will focus on practical application and demonstration, preparing case studies of past GPOBA/IFC collaborative projects, such as West Bank Solid Waste Management and Liberia Energy, as well as those under preparation, such as the Burkina Faso irrigation project.

  • Water Global Practice and Water and Sanitation Program (WSP). GPOBA works closely with the World Bank’s Water Practice, and maintained a strong presence at its Water Week 2016, with OBA featuring prominently in a number of discussions. It was cited as a tool within PPPs to ensure that the poor are included in private sector service provision, while in the context of rapid urbanization, OBA was highlighted as one financing instrument with the potential to move beyond sector-specific approaches to address the multi-sectoral problems facing low-income households. OBA was also recognized as an instrument that can help leverage much-needed private sector commercial finance for investment in water supply and sanitation. Finally, it was a key part of a financial analysis training being conducted for task team leaders, and featured in a knowledge note on blended financing prepared for the 2016 International Monetary Fund and World Bank Spring Meetings.

  • Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP). GPOBA continued its long-standing collaboration with ESMAP, this year primarily through a focus on gender, sharing lessons learned on mainstreaming gender in energy access from OBA project design, implementation, and impact assessments. GPOBA participated in the panel ‘Gender-Informed Subsidy Reforms’ and in the Electric Cooperatives workshop on mainstreaming gender in energy distribution services; the team also provided inputs to Global Status of Energy Access on the role of RBF in increasing energy access for the poor, using examples from GPOBA’s energy portfolio.

  • Tokyo Development Learning Center (TDLC). TDLC is a state-of-the art knowledge and learning center that supports the documentation and sharing of development experiences, lessons, and solutions with practitioners and institutions in World Bank client countries. TDLC’s signature activity is the operationally focused ‘technical deep dive’, which brings together governments, team leaders, and other stakeholders to focus on demand-driven topics (e.g., disaster risk management, urban planning, and urban service provision) and results in practical client-owned action plans. In FY16, GPOBA provided technical expertise to TDLC within a number of areas identified for collaboration, including project preparation, evidence-based approaches and indicators, best practices in knowledge capture, and OBA/RBF as a tool for social inclusion.

Knowledge Management, Learning, and Innovation

Knowledge management and learning remain a cornerstone of GPOBA’s role as a CoE and its work in growing the OBA/RBF community. In FY16, GPOBA strengthened and expanded its knowledge repositories on new and existing platforms, and increased its participation in knowledge forums. A significantly enhanced technical learning program and strong library of publications rounded out GPOBA’s KMLI work. Box 5 gives details of GPOBA’s expanded learning and knowledge strategy.

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World Bank Group

Community of Practice. GPOBA develops, monitors, and refines collaborative tools for knowledge exchanges with OBA/RBF practitioners, donors, and external stakeholders, and GPOBA’s Community of Practice (CoP) is an essential part of this work, adding value to GPOBA as an online convener and knowledge broker. The CoP resides on the World Bank’s online platform, Collaboration for Development (C4D), where it is accessible to both World Bank staff and external partners. The CoP’s accessibility allows it to capitalize on the significant knowledge and experience that exists inside and outside the Bank, facilitating collaboration and knowledge flow beyond formal organizational structures and sharing best practices through cross-sectoral collaboration and networking. During the fiscal year, CoP membership nearly doubled mainly due to a targeted outreach to relevant OBA/RBF practitioners.

In FY16, the CoP won a GSURR award for its presentation and website, and became one of GSURR’s new Knowledge Silo Breakers, informal structures that connect across the World Bank Group and beyond on topics of special interest. The CoP was active in numerous face-to-face and online activities, including the Kenya Energy Conference and World Water Week 2015, where GPOBA convened a panel with representatives from the Gates Foundation and the Government of Ghana to discuss how OBA/RBF approaches can serve as efficient and practical tools for expanding water services to poor communities. The CoP also delivered webinars, hosted by subject-matter experts and facilitating peer-to-peer exchange among OBA/RBF practitioners and partners, including webinars in the water and education sectors, and a webinar on Social Impact Bonds. CoP members shared blog posts with the community on such topics as independent verification in Indonesia, energy for the rural poor in Ethiopia, and sanitation in Bangladesh.

A major convening event in FY16 was the seminar, ‘Getting the Results They Pay For: Politics, Government Systems and Local Initiative’. Jointly organized by GPOBA, the Governance Global Practice, and the Human Development Group, the event explored how to coordinate different RBF approaches and reap synergies within the World Bank and with donors. The advantages of results-based approaches were presented by a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development, and included accountability and the opportunity for recipients to engage in local problem-solving. Discussants included Senior Specialists in Health, Social Protection, and Finance. Another convening event was the panel GPOBA hosted, ‘Mobility of the Urban Poor: Results-based Financing Schemes and Effective Subsidies’, which included a specialist consultant for infrastructure, public services and the urban environment, and the Transport and ICT Global Practice, and looked at issues of access to urban transport for low-income people developing economies. GPOBA also held a workshop in Brazil with government and stakeholders in the water, health and education sectors in support of the development of a beneficiary feedback system to inform results-based management processes in the state of Ceará.

Publications. GPOBA continued to produce its two ongoing series, OBApproaches and Lessons Learned, which focused in FY16 on macro, thematic, and sectoral lessons gleaned from the application of OBA in addressing development challenges. OBApproaches focused on: the use of independent verification agents (IVAs); Public Private Partnerships and OBA; OBA and Energy Access and the use of OBA in Education. The Lessons Learned notes covered the OBA Education project in Vietnam and the Ghana Solar PV Systems project. GPOBA also produced a user-friendly service provider guide, ‘Results-Based Financing for Water Service Providers in Kenya’, and a widely shared technical publication, ‘Scaling up Blended Financing of Water and Sanitation Investments in Kenya’ (see Box 3), which looked at interventions to improve access to commercial finance in the water and sanitation sector. GPOBA’s education scoping study, completed at the end of FY15, was made available to the public through several face-to-face and virtual events, and the OBA/RBF glossary was developed. This glossary stores and organizes terms and critical concepts, linking with OBA publications and related documents in which OBA/RBF terminology is most often found.

Learning. In parallel with the increasing interest in OBA/RBF and with GPOBA’s growth as a CoE, GPOBA expanded its learning program in FY16 to provide a greater range of resources, technical advice, and guidance on a demand-driven basis. Face-to-face convening events, as well as online opportunities – such as the new OBA/RBF Academy – offered GPOBA the opportunity to share its knowledge and experience with wider audiences. In support of its learning activities, GPOBA is linking with new strategies and technical platforms, models of success that represent the next generation of learning, knowledge sharing, and collaboration.

Innovation. A solid learning program supports and sustains creative, inspired innovation. GPOBA encourages and recognizes such innovation, particularly through its annual Inn-OBA-tions Awards. In FY16, OBA/RBF interventions in climate and social inclusion, governance, energy, and solid waste management received awards. Highlights of this year’s accomplishments and developments in the areas of learning and innovation are found in Boxes 2, 4 and 5.


A key communications activity this fiscal year was the initiation of a re-branding exercise that will continue through FY17. The initial phase of this work used an in-depth landscape analysis to discern current perceptions of and context for GPOBA through stakeholder interviews, focus group workshops, and an online survey. Results of the research and analysis will inform GPOBA’s positioning and communications strategy, brand guidelines, and tone and writing style guide.

In FY16, the GPOBA website continued to drive communications for feature stories and knowledge products, while the bi-monthly OBA Connections newsletter presented practitioners with news and research related to innovative development financing and key events throughout the year. GPOBA also introduced a targeted monthly newsletter for donors and initiated monthly Community of Practice updates to highlight new content and encourage participation. All of these activities have both strengthened GPOBA as a CoE and helped the team to communicate more effectively with key development partners.